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Doctorate in Sport and Exercise Science

Start date
3 years full time; 6 years part time
Course Type
Doctoral research

£4,778 FT (UK students)
£23,520FT (International Students)

More detail

Develop your practice through doctoral level applied research in professions allied to sport through study at an internationally renowned department.

The main aim of the programme is to enable individuals associated with the professions allied to sport (e.g. sport and exercise scientists, coaches, physiotherapists, medical doctors, sport educators, sport managers etc) to develop their practice through applied research.

The programme will develop your ability to conduct original research which has professional, organisational and/or developmental implications.  Working with staff from World leading School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences you will develop the ability to critically reflect on your philosophy, practice and organisational context and through research activities increase your competence in knowledge generation and implementation. Whereas the traditional PhD, may be seen as academic research training, the Doctorate in Sport and Exercise Science is a more practically focused degree, which will develop your research competence and the ability to apply it in appropriate contexts.  It is ideally suited for those sport professionals interested in becoming practicing professional researchers. Through this programme you will develop as a researching professional, who can undertake research and activities that inform the professional practice both within their organisation and more broadly within sport and exercise.

The highly competitive nature of the sports industry and the continued need to improve practice quality drives the need for high level CPD opportunities for those involved in sport. The main aim of this programme is to enable individuals associated with professions allied to sport to develop their practice through applied research.

The Doctoral programme is concerned with original research which has professional, organisational and/or developmental implications. The aims of the programme are:

  • To create and interpret new knowledge associated with professional practice in Sport and Exercise Science
  • To enable students to acquire a detailed understanding of, and innovate in, applied research methodology appropriate to professional practice in Sport and Exercise Science
  • To improve students’ ability to develop and apply research in their chosen area of professional practice
  • To support individuals to develop strategies to optimize personal and professional growth in order to maximize the potential to create change in themselves and others

The programme will enhance your effectiveness in these areas through developing you within the researcher-practitioner paradigm.  Interaction with the learning strategies on the programme will allow you to develop the skills associated with research, critical analysis, problem solving, innovation, project-management and information dissemination. You will be challenged to develop your personal professional practice and to plan, direct and evaluate your own learning.  These skills reflect important attributes required in high level practice in high performance sport and other organisations.

The programme includes tutor lead structured learning (modules) and more self-directed tutor supported project based learning (research projects). The completion of modules related to planning research (Developing Research for Sport and Exercise Science) and professional practice (Professional Practice: Developing Competency in Sport and Exercise Science) at the start of the programme provide the platform for the development of individually relevant programmes of research that comprise the majority of the learning experience. The highly bespoke nature and focus of the research element of the programme enables you to investigate a broad range of areas related to your interests including sport and exercise science, nutrition, coaching, physiotherapy, sports medicine, sport education and sport management etc.  A final module aimed at supporting reflection on the learning journey (Evaluating Performance: Critical Reflections in Sport and Exercise Science) concludes the programme. A commitment to a blended approach to learning and individually created tutor student supervision strategies enable the programme to be delivered in a flexible way. This enables you to engage with the learning required by the programme in a way that is suitable to your current professional commitments. 

Why study this course?

  • Study at a World-leading School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences.
  • Be part of a unique learning environment for doctoral study in the field of sport with staff expertise in both applied sport and exercise and clinically based areas.
  • Experienced staff within the context of both world leading academic research and applied practice provides high level support for your development.
  • Be part of a strong network of specialist academic experts and experienced practitioners in high performance sport and other sports organisations.


In addition to completing original research projects that have professional, organisational and/or developmental implications students will evaluate their current competency in the area of research, with specific reference to sport and exercise science. Students will also develop an understanding of key considerations in the development of a research programme. This will include an awareness of the process associated with ethical review, identifying appropriate research questions and research methodologies. Key considerations around the planning of research projects will also be considered. Through an enhanced awareness and development of critical reflective skills, students are encouraged to explore assumptions concerning their own learning and their current competencies relevant to sport and exercise science (e.g. technical skill, personal effectiveness, problem solving, professional relationships etc) especially the ability to integrate theory and research into practice. Key ideas around the management of self-learning, and the development of others, within a professional context are also introduced. Advances in the awareness of key issues associated with translating and implementing research to drive organisational change and ethical and legal issues are also delivered. At the end of the programme students will also close the loop on their personal, professional and research development associated with their time on the doctoral programme to support critical evaluation of “current” competency as well as signpost potential next steps in an individual development plan. Through critical examination on their doctoral education, using reflection and meta-reflection, key learning experiences associated with the completion of the programme of research, the impact of this research on professional practice (of self and organisationally) and their personal approaches to professional performance (of self and others) are identified and evaluated in the context of knowledge generation and skill development related to sport and exercise science.  The ability to translate research into real world settings and to evaluate both the implementation process and impact of new learning organisationally is also be a focus.

The taught modules on this programme are:

  • Year 1: Developing Research for Sport and Exercise Science (40 credits)
  • Year 1: Professional Practice: Developing Competency in Sport and Exercise Science (40 credits)
  • Year 3: Evaluating Performance: Critical Reflections in Sport and Exercise Science (40 credits)

In addition to this students will complete a programme of applied research relevant to their own professional development.

Please note: The modules listed on the website for this programme are regularly reviewed to ensure they are up-to-date and informed by the latest research and teaching methods. On rare occasions, we may need to make unexpected changes to compulsory modules; in this event we will contact offer holders as soon as possible to inform or consult them as appropriate.


Standard fees apply.

Fees for 2024/25

  • Code 328E: UK students £4,778 FT
  • Code 329E: UK students £2,389 PT
  • Code 328E: International students £23,520 (full time only)

For further information contact the School directly or get in touch with the Funding, Graduation & Awards via the online enquiries system.

How To Apply

To make an informal enquiry about this course or register your interest, contact:
Student Recruitment Team
School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham. B15 2TT
Telephone +44 (0)121 414 8327 

When submitting your application, please ensure that you have indicated your preferred supervisor (you can list up to your top three preferred in rank order). It is strongly advised that you make contact with a potential supervisor before you apply to see whether they are taking on new MRes students and whether they would consider your application. 

International students requiring visas

1 July 2024 is the application deadline for international students who require a visa to study in the United Kingdom. We are not able to consider applications for 2024 made after this date; a new application will need to be made for September 2025.

UK students

31 August 2024 is the application deadline for UK students. We are not able to consider applications for 2024 made after this date; a new application will need to be made for September 2025.

Applications for 2024 entry are now open.

Making your application

How to apply

To apply for a postgraduate research programme, you will need to submit your application and supporting documents online. We have put together some helpful information on the research programme application process and supporting documents on our how to apply page. Please read this information carefully before completing your application.

Apply now

Our Standard Requirements

Students will be required to hold an undergraduate degree and a M level qualification (including research degrees; MRes, MPhil) in a discipline related to sport and exercise science (e.g. sport and exercise scientists, coaches, physiotherapists, medical doctors, sport educators, sport managers etc). No student will be admitted onto the programme who does not possess a suitable knowledge base of research methods acquired through M level training. The professional vocation of the student will, in certain situations (e.g. medicine and physiotherapy) also inform the appropriateness of the application and the area of research that they undertake and hence their ability to obtain a specific named award (e.g. physiotherapy/medicine).

International Requirements

Typical offer:
M level qualification in a subject aligned to the research interests of the applicant

The programme operates a flexible approach to learning that is based around the concept of blended (in person and online) delivery.

A variety of learning and teaching approaches are used to support learning opportunities. These include independent research activity, one to one supervision, workshops, work-based learning, critical friend feedback, self-audits, independent and guided critical reflection. All of these approaches will be associated with professional learning within the real-world settings of each student.

Modules are assessed using a combination of coursework assessments to include research papers, reports, reflective commentaries and viva voce examination. The research component of the award will be evaluated using a formal viva vice examination.

Each student will be allocated a project supervisor and supervisory team (who will specifically support the research programme) and an academic mentor who will support their development from a broader perspective. Engagement with these key individuals will be completed in a flexible way that is aimed to optimally engage the student with their learning journey.

Seminars and tutorials are aimed at supporting both the learning opportunities included in the core programme modules and to facilitate the processes in and around the completion of the research projects. Seminars and tutorials will be led by both tutors and students on the programme to facilitate peer to peer learning. The blended approach to delivery of these aspects of the curriculum will ensure that all students can engage in individual and small group learning.

Lectures and other key content will be delivered by a mixture of academic experts and professional individuals who are active within high performance sport or sports related organisations. Research and high level professional experience and competency will be a key underpinning of all individuals involved in the programme.

The School in based in the largest custom-built Sport and Exercise facility in the UK, with state of the art research labs dedicated to exercise testing and sample analysis across the spectrum of sport and exercise sciences including: physiology, biochemistry, psychophysiology, biomechanics, sport psychology, motor skills, immunology, muscle mechanics and the neurophysiology of movement. In addition, the School uses a wide range of practical spaces for professional and vocational related research.

Contact Hours

Contact hours will vary for each individual according to the stage of the programme at which they are located. The completion of the core modules will require a more structured approach to learning while the independent research projects will be completed in a more flexible way according to the specific nature of the project(s). It is the intention that this programme is delivered in a flexible way in an attempt to recognise the professional commitments that enrolled students may have to fulfil.

Assessment Methods

All of the assessment on this programme is focussed around the preparation, delivery and evaluation of original research projects within a professional, organisational and/or developmental context. Assessments completed in the core modules delivered in year 1 provide clear direction to both the specific learning and development journey for each student as well as the creation of the programme of research. The final modules assessments enable students to represent their own high-level reflections on both the project outcomes, their application and the experience of learning on the programme. A viva voce enables students to present and discuss their research with experts.


The programme attempts to enhance the employability of graduates through doctoral level research training relevant to professional practice. The development of research skills, critical analysis, problem solving, innovation, project-management, dissemination of information, development of professional practice standards and planning, directing and evaluating their own learning to a level commensurate with doctoral study will facilitate career transitions and progression.  Potential careers for those completing the programme would include management and leadership roles in high level sports organisations. 

Doctoral level qualifications are becoming increasingly important for roles within professional sport and other sport related occupations. High level thinking and problem-solving skills are attributes that are important for senior figures in organisations. The doctoral programme is focussed on the development of such skills and as such will provide you with key characteristics that are needed in today’s competitive career market.